Thursday, February 4, 2016

Don't Be A Social Justice Warrior

"But what are we to do?" said Susan...
"My dear young lady," said the Professor, suddenly looking up with a very sharp expression at both of them, "there is one plan which no one has yet suggested and which is well worth trying."
"What's that?" said Susan.
"We might all try minding our own business, " said he. And that was the end of the conversation. 

C.S. Lewis, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," Harper Collins Children's Books, 2001, p.58.

And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.
14 I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.

(Scriptures quoted from this site).

Being a busybody is seldom attractive, however, nowadays it's promoted  as virtue. Do-goodism has become a religion of its own, we are all supposed to engage in campaigns to save the climate, Africa, women in third world countries, children in South America who don't go to school etc etc. There are whole missionary teams going to some obscure village to dig wells. I always wonder, can't men in those villages dig wells? Are Westerners supposed to be babysitters of the entire world? Do adults and/or wealthy people in those countries have no responsibilities to their own? And finally, why should I care?

The world would be a much better place if we just started paying more attention to the needs of our immediate family, neighbours and friends, instead of engaging in pointless campaigns to eliminate world poverty and inequality, or becoming a part of internet lynch mobs fighting an -ism du jour.  I believe that women especially are prone to this malaise of busybodism, hence this poem from 1906:

She's a woman with a mission, 'tis her 
heaven-born ambition to reform
the world's condition, you will
please to understand.

She's a model of propriety, a leader in
society, and has a great variety 
of remedies at hand. 

Each a sovereign specific, with a title 
scientific, for the cure of things
morbific that vex the people sore;

For the swift alleviation of the evils
 of  the nation is her fore-ordained
vocation on this sublunary

And while thus she's up and coming,
always hurrying and humming,
and occasionally slumming, this 
reformer of renown,

Her neglected little Dicky, ragged, dirty
tough and tricky, with his
 fingers soiled and sticky, is
 the terror of the town.

Author unknown, quoted from here.


  1. I never saw a busy body as someone who worked to promote good - I was taught that a busy body is someone who is nosy and snoopy and likes to pass on the latest news.
    As far as helping developing countries; we teach them skills but never being their bosses. Aren't the colonial days a thing of the past?
    Our own families and neighbours may never be neglected but I do think there's a place for helping those in our own country and other countries who could sure use a helping hand. For eg. Ukraine is poor and people suffer in the winter - they can and should be helped.
    The telephone and internet are great gadgets for busybodies!

  2. The way I see it, busybodies are interfering into affairs of others under the pretence of doing good.

    As for developing countries, I'm afraid that it's more complicated than we are taught to think. There are definitely strings attached to the help they get and often they are forced to promote Western liberal values in exchange. I think it can be different if done through a church or by Westerners who actually live there, because all these campaigns are often very fraudulent and there are few possibilities for control. Also, it could very well be that those people are happy to live the way they do even though we may think it's primitive.

    It's arrogant on our part to think it's our way or highway.

  3. But I agree about teaching skills. In this situation, Westerners could teach the men of a remote village how to dig a well (if they don't know, though one wonders how they managed to survive without water before). By doing it for them, we reduce their men to the level of little kids needing grown-ups to solve their problems. It's paternalistic in extreme. We should stop trying to be the world's mommy and daddy.

  4. I for one, have begun to suffer apathy due to the huge numbers of charities which advertise continually on the television, in magazines, and solicit you on the street or in the supermarket.
    I have a soft heart for most all of them, and my husband and I decide which we elect to help, which we do regularly. However, I often wonder why after decades of assistance and investment, there are still so many countries that lack the basics in providing for their citizens and when we will actually learn of significant improvement in the lives of the children and adults.
    It is my opinion that we should help those around us as much as we are able, but there are times I question whether the hundreds of millions pumped into the countries in question actually solve ANY of their problems long term.

  5. You know, I have basically decided to only donate to charities which do something for people in my own country, unless it's done through church, then I'll look into it before deciding whether to donate.

    I'd like to add that it wasn't my primarily motivation only to criticise (often fraudulent) charities. I'm just extremely critical of this whole "social justice" mindset. It's more about interfering into people's private lives than any real justice, like those feminist campaigns to force men to do "the fair share" of housework. Personal isn't political and never should be!

  6. Housewife from FinlandFebruary 4, 2016 at 10:07 AM

    You are so right, Sanne. I find it interesting how the people who most eagerly want to help every non-western person in the whole wide world, seem to think that those people are stupid and helpless and baby-like. If we think that other people as a nation cannot survive without our very questionable help -well, it is very patronizing.

    Now anything can happen to anybody, and when that happens, people do need help. But I do think that people should keep their own backyard clean before they mind about neighbours; that is, there is no sense in giving money to foreign countries if you have poor and homeless in your own country.

    I never give anything to charity, because I believe that the reason we pay taxes is that the government will take care of sick and poor. Thing like that are far too important to be left on individuals good will. I would not mind paying more taxes, if that would be necessary, but I do not donate. Ever. Except blood. :)


    Scroll to 1h. 34 min.

    Interesting point of view about taxes. I agree about helping when things happen, like a natural disaster, for instance. But it's not an every day occurrence and I think governments have special funds for it, too. Read somewhere that most of the money donated to help the victims of the Haiti earthquake never reached Haiti at all. If it's so, someone probably became filthy rich because of all goodhearted folks over there.

  8. BTW, I believe in noblesse oblige. Just not in those globalised charities.

  9. Housewife, in my country the government is despised by the upper classes for paying charity from their taxes. Well paid people think the poor should work and feed themselves because the government is not socialist anylonger and taxes are for ensuring infrastructure for everybody not for feeding those who don't want to earn their living. Nevertheless, the needy receive help and social care from governmental programs but nobody is very enthusiastic about how taxes are being managed. I consider that a good infrastructure is necessary and nobody should deliberately be a burden for their country. Giving a helping hand to those in need is a duty of everybody who can make a difference around but it is actually my personal affair what I am going to eat tomorrow. Not the government's. If somebody decides to help, it's a personal act of charity but we shouldn't take charity for granted if we are in trouble. Some people here in my country consider that they just deserve more and it is somebody else's duty to take care of their needs. I don't believe in international charity. I believe in colonial countries that are governed against their own interests. In this case no western helping hand can make things better.

  10. So many different thoughts! Years ago there was no social assistanc, so people were more obligated to help each other. Are we responsible for our neighbour? Who is our neighbour? I have been to developing countries and seen the good that others had done. for example - X-ray machines, eye glasses, MRI machines, bandages, disinfectants. If others had not stepped forward and helped with this; these villagers would never have had the wonderful benefits. Personally, I do feel a moral obligation to give and to help - if that makes me a busybody; then I will gladly be one.

  11. I think it depends on one's definition of social justice, and depends on the situation, the country, and the forces at work. I have always seen social justice as a form of speaking out against oppression, and lending aid to people where their governments (or where my government is contributing to an oppressive regime in some way) promote a corrupt system that damages the ability of otherwise hardworking people to make ends meet, or where there are other human rights violations. I never viewed welfare as part of the social justice movement, though some people like to link the two. I also agree in teaching life-improving skills, but more so I believe in sharing the skills of nonviolent resistance to peoples who can use that to improve their societies at large. There are groups in my country who hold workshops on nonviolent resistance, drawing on the methods of such activists and faith leaders as Martin Luther King, Jr. To my understanding, that is real social justice.

  12. Marietta, I'm not saying all help is/was in vain. However, in those countries you visited, is everybody there equally poor? Don't they have any rich people and if they do, don't these rich people have a duty to their own? Also, there is certainly a difference between a personal conviction to help, which can be a good thing, and a situation like in my country where various charities practically shame you into giving them money "to save third world".

  13. Antheia, interfering into political affairs of other countries and sponsoring government changes under the guise of fighting for freedom or social justice is subversive, to say the least.

  14. Also, the way I see it, a normal person just tries to live decently and mind his own business but if he sees someone who, in his opinion, needs help he goes out and helps. A busybody is going around LOOKING for something which will give him the opportunity to interfere. He doesn't just send money to some remote village or gives clothes to the poor, he insists that it's also YOUR duty and if you don't agree you are a nasty person and should be preferably forced to comply. And yes, such people exists and in Christian circles, too.

  15. You are welcome and welcome to the blog!